February 17th, 2011 – Walking Home Projects takes a walk through Centre A, Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

WH Pender February 17th, 2011  Review

By Sam Knopp

After getting off the bus stop on Hastings Street at Carrall Street, a group of Montessori students from Maple Grove Elementary School were once again readying themselves to explore the city. The group’s previous visit with Walking Home Projects took the students to the Woodward’s development where discussions about architecture, planning, public art and the Woodward’s “W” were at the forefront. This week, although we could still make out the shining “W” in the distance, the group was ready to step into Chinatown. Catherine Pulkinghorn, Walking Home Projects Director, wasted no time orientating the group by pointing out the various landmarks at the intersection of Hastings and Carrall Streets, and many in the group were surprised to learn that this intersection was once the heart of the city. Catherine explained that at one point City Hall, the Interurban Railway, and an assortment of shops and theatres used to call this crossway home, but that times change, and when these establishments left the area – the Interurban Railway’s departure being the most impactful – the vibrant city centre also moved.

After orienting ourselves at the Carrall and Hastings intersection our group explores the old Interurban Railway building which now houses Centre A Gallery (photo credit: Sam Knopp)

In recent years, a gallery called Centre A has taken up residence in the old Interurban Station. The gallery’s current exhibition, “I Can See Your Underwear”, had many of the students excited by the colourful, dramatic and interactive installations.  The gallery’s curator Makiko Hara, Development Officer Christina Panis, and Gallery Coordinator Debra Zhou all shared their interpretive expertise with us before the group was off for lunch!

Centre A Gallery’s curator Makiko Hara talks to our group along with Development Officer Christina Panis, and Gallery Coordinator Debra Zhou. Walking Home Projects Director Catherine Pulkinghorn is on the far right. (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)

In a strange way, we were lucky that the skies were grey because instead of eating lunches outdoors, students were generously invited to Walking Home Projects’ studio at the Yue Shan Society. We then stopped at an unsuspecting door along Pender Street and Catherine led the group down a very narrow passageway to the Yue Shan Society’s interior courtyard, the last remaining courtyard of its kind in Chinatown! After lunch in the studio and discussions about vault lights and Market Alley, it was time for the day’s main event: the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden Executive Director Kathy Gibler delighted us with stories about the Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Our guide at the Garden, Kathy Gibler, greeted us enthusiastically and helped the kids to understand the history behind the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Many were surprised to learn that this beautiful space was actually modeled after the home of the ancient Chinese Scholar.  Students learned that Scholars were the educated, cultured, and wealthy elite who worked for the emperor as government officials. This was no easy job though, as Kathy was fast to point out. To become a Scholar for the Emperor meant a lot of studying and a lot of tests! Nonetheless, the kids marvelled at the beautiful architecture and thoughtful design that makes the Garden so spectacular.

Taking a closer look at the beauty of these traditional lanterns hanging at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

All too soon, the group, not yet ready to leave the tranquility of the Garden, was brought back to Hastings Street to catch their bus back home, but luckily, this was not our final goodbye. These students will have one more chance to explore the city with Walking Home Projects, and as it turns out, we’re just as excited as they are!

Sam Knopp

February 17th, 2011 – The Map of Where We Went:

Walking Home two/to impressions of history present and future in the Downtown Eastside

First Intersection:

City Hall and railway incarnations and reincarnations
Boarded up grand entrances
Visions of streetcars and trains
Tracks to nowhere are all that remains
I can see your underwear
Garbage gets a new life
A 30 foot swing of braided plastic and wigs
Kids swinging and laughing
A giant recycled plastic bridal gown and fallen chairs
Godzilla’s wife?
1298 freezies dangling in a luminous array
Mobile molecular mass
Plastic jeans
Purple hued daylight in dark places
One hundred years of magical chemistry
Sawtooth patterns overhead
Facades and the Big W
Architecture has meaning

Second Intersection:

Market Alley drug dealers
Narrow passageway to a secret inner courtyard
First visitors
History comes alive
Business from both sides
Race riots and broken windows
$700 is all it would take
Yu Shan Society and the disenfranchised Chinese
Sidewalks on stilts
Racial divide
Water Street has meaning

Third Intersection:

A walled garden
Hands behind your back
Don’t question the teacher
Bring honour to your family
Testing, testing, testing
Yin yang
Bamboo and dead wood
No nails, no glue, a jigsaw puzzle
Strange rocks from a distant lake
Flower petals from broken shards
Hall of 100 Rivers
Wading in a jade pool
Tubelights and dangling silk lanterns
Everything has meaning

Fourth Intersection:

Walking in slush
Move to the back of the bus
Practice your etiquette
Curiosity and investigation
Creative ideas
Three dimensional maps, timelines, art installations
More surprises in store
Scavenger hunt coming up!
Experience has meaning

Ms. Macqueen

Walking Home Projects Director Catherine Pulkinghorn showing our group the last interior court yard in Chinatown at the Yue Shan Society (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)

Youth Reviews

On February 17th my class went to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, but first we stopped at a very unique art gallery called Centre A.  On the window on the outside of the gallery it had the title “I Can See Your Underwear” on the glass.  My classmates and I wondered, “what is that supposed to be about?” When our helpers Catherine, Samantha and Laurie let us go in we looked above our heads and there was a plastic cover and on the cover there were colourful plastic bags.   I also noticed that all the art that was there was made up from plastic and garbage.  I was looking around and the first thing that caught my eye was an art piece made up from un-frozen freezies.  It was pretty cool.  I am guessing that there were about 1,000 un-frozen freezies.  There was also another art piece that was a swing.  The handle bars of the swings were made from plastic and I also noticed that there were 3 or 4 wigs.  I thought it was pretty original.  I actually got to swing on the swing.  It was really fun but I kept on feeling like the swing was going to break.  But it didn’t, which was a relief.  After that a few of my friends and I saw this curtain and we wondered what was behind it, so we went behind the curtain and there was an art piece there.  The art piece had a bunch of string tied together and there were decorations on it like colourful plastic bags, bubble wrap and some wigs.  The sad thing was that I forgot to bring my camera so I couldn’t take pictures of all the amazing art we saw.  Not many people got to see the piece behind the curtain because it wasn’t obvious, but my friends and I were curious.  After that we gathered in the middle of the room and the three ladies that worked at the gallery explained that the whole art exhibit was called “I Can See Your Underwear”.  They said it was called that because sometimes when people swing on a swing you can see their underwear, usually girls because they wear dresses.  After that we went near the door and there were two little sculptures and Catherine told us that those two little sculptures represented the two artists that made some of the art.  I’ve never seen an art exhibit like that before.

Alisha M.

The popular swing from Centre A Gallery's exhibit: i can see your underwear (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)

On Thursday, February 17th 2011, my class and I went to Chinatown.  We went to an exhibition called “I Can See Your Underwear”, at Centre A Gallery where everything in the exhibition was made out of plastic.  The art gallery use to be a train station so when the trains stopped running the entrances got blocked.  When we got into the art gallery there was this big swing that you could swing on and it was made out of plastic and wigs. There was also, another art piece made out of unfrozen freezies. From far away it looks like different coloured glass but really it is unfrozen freezies with a light shining on them. The next sculpture was all plastic wraps and old white plastic chairs.  The whole sculpture went up to the ceiling.  It was all white and looked like a wedding dress.  There was also, a fake jeans sculpture where they drew the pockets and the jeans were flat so it looks like a picture.  There was also a mini statue of the artists face on a table.  Another one of the art works was a green light that shined on a piece of glass.  My most favourite sculpture was the swing because it was very creative and you could actually swing on it.  My experience was it was really fun and I learned a lot.

Kailan T.

Walking Home Project participants comment on the beauty of 1298 unfrozen freezies as part of "i can see your underwear" at Centre A Gallery (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Last Thursday we went to see the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Chinatown.  When we got into the Garden, our guide Kathy Gibler started to tell us about old Chinese families and the usual jobs they had to do.  The son of the family would have to take tests for many years until he was accepted to go and work for the Emperor.  I also found out that every man who worked for the Emperor had to take a big test every 3 years, and they would be locked in a small room until they finished the test, but most of the men wouldn’t come out for 3 days.  The women would stay at home and do chores around the house.  Also, I learned that the people that owned a place like the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, were only high officials that worked closely with the Emperor.  The Garden’s buildings were apparently put together not by nails and screws, but fitted together like puzzle pieces.  As we looked around in the Garden we talked about the history of this place. I really liked the ponds and the plants, but my very favourite thing in the Garden was the man-made rock mountain that had a Chinese gazebo on top of it.  I really liked the mountain because it was so unique and it looked so authentic.  I really liked the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and I would like to thank Ms. Macqueen and Walking Home Projects for taking us to the Garden and setting up our walk.

Noah S.

This Ming Dynasty Scholar's Garden home was made without nails or screws (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

On February 17th 2011, our class went to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.  It was very interesting to learn about the structure of the ancient Chinese garden homes. The Garden was beautiful.  The ground had different flower patterns made from shattered plates, bowls, and cups.  There were also pebbles from some of the rivers in China.  Outside there was a traditional Chinese gazebo and it was amazing.  The gazebo has to be on the top of a mountain, which in this case was fake and just made of rocks, because it is a tradition.  The jade pearl on top of the gazebo is to warn off ghosts from the garden.  The Garden had lots of plants and that made the garden feel alive.  There were also ponds, which gave a great effect on the experience of the Garden.

We learned that 52 master-builders from China came to Vancouver to build the Garden.  They were used to building things by hand and with simple tools.  Unlike the Canadian builders who use cranes and other helpful machines.  The builders from China didn’t use steel toed boots or hardhats.  They wore bamboo hats and soft shoes.  When they came here and had to use them, they didn’t like them because they were heavy and clunky; but when they finished building the Garden and went back to China, and everyone saw them in their boots and hardhats and everyone was jealous.

I had the best time at the Garden, and I’m looking forward to going back next week for the scavenger hunt.

Cortnee F.

Kathy Gibler leads our group through the wonders of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

On Thursday, February 17th we went on a field trip to Chinatown.  I’ve never actually walked around Chinatown, I’ve only driven past it.  Well, for my first time it was amazing. The whole area is very diverse. The shops there look very old and interesting.  But before getting to that I’ll talk about before we went into Chinatown.  So we got off the bus, and we first got taught some of the history of the buildings and the area.  We slowly made our way to Centre A Gallery where the exhibit was called “I Can See Your Underwear”.   I forgot why they called it that but I do remember it being funny and cool.  In the gallery they made different sculptures made out of plastic.  We were not allowed to touch them (which is understandable) but it was just as cool to look that them.  There was one that we could touch, it was a swing that had plastic bags and several wigs attached to it on the handles and the seat was a stool with the legs taken off.  Another sculpture was made out of freezies.  It probably had about 1,000 freezies on it.  When we left we headed into Chinatown.  When we got there we ate in a courtyard.  We left shortly after we finished eating.  We walked around the area for awhile.  It was very different from “home sweet home.”  All the buildings looked very rustic and old.  The streets looked like they needed some cleaning because the streets were a little dirty, but that’s Chinatown for you!

We made our way to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.  The Garden was very interesting.  It had cool trees, and the tile outside was made out of different rocks to make them look like pretty flowers.  Most of the items there had something to do with good luck.  The pond was crystal clear.  We went to the other side of the pond over the bridge where the pond was green and muddy looking and you couldn’t possibly see anything.  We soon finished looking around the peaceful Garden, and we walked back up to the bus.  The field trip was fun, exciting and very educational.

Ostara M.

Another peaceful view of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

On February 17th our class went on another fieldtrip with Walking Home Projects.  We hopped on the number 16 bus and headed to Chinatown.  We got off the bus and talked about buildings.  The Holden Building in front of the bus stop was the old City Hall. Behind us were a few different buildings.  Like people, they are all different heights.  This is called a saw tooth pattern and it shows how the economy was.  The short buildings are when businesses lacked money and the tall buildings were when businesses were booming.  On Carrall Street we saw a building with three huge doors that were covered up.  We went to the building and saw train tracks and learnt it was the old Interurban train station.  Now it is an Art gallery called Centre A.  They were holding an exhibit called “I Can See Your Underwear.”  The exhibit was named after a giant swing made out of plastic and a few wigs.  The curator was named Makiko.  She explained why it was called that.  Girls that swing on swings used to wear really short dresses so when you go behind them you could see their underwear.  There was a sculpture made out of freezies and was really cool.  There was a light behind them to make it look like luminous colourful lights.  The aim of this exhibit is to make everything or most things out of plastic.

Danica A.

Participants take a closer look at Centre A Gallery's exhibit "i can see your underwear" (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)

Last Thursday we went to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden for an awesome field trip in Chinatown!  As we entered the Garden we were immediately greeted by a happy sense of peace, accompanied by a happy feeling of calm.  Our guide at the Garden, Kathy Gibler,  brought us to a small shelter where she told us how this Garden came to be and what it represents in a funny little tale.  Some information we grasped from this tale was that in China only very rich people had these types of Garden homes.  These were mostly high officials.  Interestingly, in ancient China, the boys would have to be constantly studying academics, while the girls learned household talents.  We also learned that the buildings in the Garden are not made with any nails whatsoever.  Instead they made all the buildings like huge complex 3-D puzzles.  Also they were made by a team consisting of Chinese and Canadian workers.

We then left the small building to explore the actual Garden.  Along the pathways intricate patterns were installed into the ground.  These patterns were made up of broken bowls and plates and rocks from all different places of China.  There was also a gazebo-like structure on top of a small rock hill that we later found out was a manmade hill constructed of rocks taken from a lake in China.  I found it great because although most students in our class are Chinese it helped them to understand China and where they are from a bit better.  Also for those of us who are not Chinese, it helped us understand a foreign country which many might consider odd.  After examining the Garden for a while we started to freeze and just managed to stay alive for the entire tour.  We found it an amazing field trip that surpassed all our other field trips this year.  Learning lots in a fun and interactive way outside was a great change from the classroom and I hope we will be able to go on more.

Matthew M

Walking to the interior courtyard at Yue Shan Society (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)